Alan Roach doesn’t like listening to recordings of his own voice. So when he’s traveling through Denver International Airport, “I hope I’m on the Adele Arakawa train,” he says, referring to the longtime KUSA anchor with whom he’s shared announcement duties on that airport train for eleven years, urging passengers to “Hold on, please,” and warning pushy latecomers that “YOU are delaying the departure of this train.” But on Friday, when Roach flew to Minnesota to announce the Minnesota Vikings game, and on Sunday, when he returned to Denver from another win by his hometown team, “for the first time probably since 2006, I heard my voice on the train and smiled and liked it,” he recalls. “I was melancholy a bit, but I did really like it.”
That’s because the airport is currently looking for new voices for the train. In June 2016, Roach made headlines when he revealed that he was ending his Broncos gig after sixteen years for the “opportunity of a lifetime” as the PA announcer for the Minnesota Vikings, his favorite team since he was four — and then Arakawa retired and moved to Phoenix this summer. The two were only the second ones to speak for the airport since it opened in 1995: The late Pete Smythe and Reynelda Muse, Denver’s first African-American anchorwoman who moved to Indiana shortly after getting the gig, were the original voices; Arakawa and Roach took their spots in 2006.
And last week, the airport announced a contest to find replacements for Arakawa and Roach; the competition is open to any radio or broadcast personality with seven years of experience in this town. According to the contest rules, posted on flydenver.com, “Candidates must exemplify Colorado and reflect Colorado values that would represent the airport, city and state well.”
Roach thinks he’s been doing a pretty good job of that since he moved to Denver in 1990. Because even though he’s now traveling to U.S. Bank Stadium ten times a year for the Vikings games, he still lives in Denver — a fact that DIA officials and assorted media outlets (including this one) all missed, despite the fact that he’s currently the voice of the Colorado Avalanche, the Colorado Rapids, 103.5/The Fox, and numerous business and charity organizations around the state. “I will argue that my voice is the most recognized not only in our city, but statewide,” he says. “I am not happy about the decision to replace me, and even less happy about how I found out.”
And how did he find out? When various media outlets (again, including this one) reported that the airport was looking for his replacement.
Roach still lives in the house where he and Arakawa recorded their airport messages with Jim Green, the sound artist who got an airport public-art commission in 1994 to create “Train Call,” which includes both those announcements and the merry train music; Roach had just built his own professional recording studio there, where he did his show for KOA for many years. “I’m always recording something, somewhere,” he says.
He’ll be doing his tenth Super Bowl early next year, has his sixth Olympics coming up, and will be heard at the World Cup soccer tournament; he’s often the only announcer from the United States at some of these prestigious sporting events. “I do a lot of things around the world. I consider myself a world-renowned announcer,” he adds. “I would be very sad if I was removed from my favorite job. I’m still really proud of being at the airport.”
Despite all the jobs he’s done around town, around the world, Roach says he’s still amazed by how many people recognize his voice. When he’s at the grocery store — a Denver grocery store, of course — and asked whether he wants paper or plastic, a checker might ask if he’s the Colorado Rockies announcer (even though he left that gig in 2006). But most people recognize him from the airport messages, and one message in particular: “YOU are delaying the departure of this train.”
“Of all the comments I get about the train, that’s the one I hear most about,” says Roach. “It’s part of the character of the train.” Like “Mustang,” the devilish blue horse that stands outside the airport, it’s a symbol that you either love or loathe...but you definitely recognize it.
Roach says he’s had 16,000 interactions with tweets since the contest news broke, and is encouraging fans to show their support. “I’m going to do anything I can to stay on that train,” he vows, adding that he's talked to airport officials about the confusion over his status, and assured them that his residency qualifies him to keep his current status.
According to Heath Montgomery, the airport’s senior public information officer, “Alan can submit his information, and we will consider him like anyone else who qualifies under the rules.”
While Roach may well wind up back on the train, it sounds like one thing might be retired for good. Although the airport is still working out the details on how it will record the new messages — interested applicants are supposed to submit recordings of several old standbys by November 30 — “we do expect that we will change the ‘You are delaying’ message,” says Montgomery.
If Roach could come up with a new message for the train, what would it be? “It would have something to do with the beauty of our state,” he says. “It’s breathtaking…. I don’t think there’s a more beautiful place to live with better weather…. Colorado just has the best of all worlds. It’s such a beautiful place.”
A place where he’s still very happy to live.
Even if his quest to stay on board as the voice of Denver International Airport could delay the departure of this train.
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